System attorney could manage all board, staff items
LAFAYETTE — Job descriptions for new positions of a full-time attorney and paralegal for the Lafayette Parish School System are under review before they go back before the School Board, Superintendent Pat Cooper said Friday.
Cooper pulled the new job descriptions from the board’s Sept. 5 meeting agenda to distinguish the role of a full-time attorney from that of the board’s existing part-time counsel, James Simon, whose services are provided through the District Attorney’s Office.
After Simon eliminates the tasks that he “intends to take care of,” Cooper said, the remaining job description will be reviewed to determine “if it’s still feasible for us to hire our own attorney or should we continue to contract out services.”
“We’ll make a money and efficiency calculation to see if we still need to pursue a staff attorney position,” he said.
Cooper told The Advocate earlier this month that the school district spends about $450,000 annually on contracted legal services and that hiring a full-time attorney and paralegal could saved the system between $150,000 to $200,000.
Smaller school districts in Acadiana, such as Iberia and Vermilion, both have in-house attorneys.
“I would love to get to a point where we have one attorney who is full-time and handles both the board and staff issues like they do in Vermilion,” Cooper said.
School district staff consulted with Vermilion Parish School system’s full-time attorney, Calvin “Woody” Woodruff when devising its attorney position.
Before moving to the full-time attorney position in Vermilion Parish a few years ago, Woodruff worked as special counsel for the district.
Woodruff has said he is in daily contact with principals and administrators who have questions related to new state laws and school reforms.
Iberia Parish School Board hired a full-time attorney last year. Both districts are smaller than Lafayette.
Cooper said he’d like someone on staff full-time to help staff navigate the recent state reforms.
“We need expert legal advice,” he said. “There’s too much riding on this.”
Last month, the district faced three lawsuits filed by a total of six employees who challenged the use of a new law, which took effect July 1, that was used to terminate their employment. Upon the advice of its attorney, the board opted to provide the tenured employees who filed suit a termination hearing, as was required prior to the law’s change.